Don’t forget medications when tidying up

Pills in hand

Safety tips to prevent accidental medication poisonings

If you’re a caregiver who helps a loved one manage medications, now is a great time to get rid of old prescriptions and make sure that current ones are stored safely. In 2013, drug poisoning (overdose) was the number one injury-related death in the United States.1 According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2010, adults accounted for 92 percent of all poison-related deaths.2 Children younger than 6 accounted for about half of all poison exposure calls. 3

Removing unused medicines from the home can prevent accidental poisonings. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) provides recommendations and sponsors National Drug Take-back days for safe medicine disposal. Visit for more information. Your pharmacy may recommend other disposal resources in your community.

Caregivers can play an active part in helping to prevent medication-related accidents. Here are some things you can do:

Medication safety tips:

  • Store medicines in labeled prescription bottles to prevent mix-ups. Read the label each time you administer medicine.
  • Never share or borrow medicines.
  • Take medicines only as prescribed; do not take extra.
  • Take a written list of all medicines to doctor appointments. Include the dose, how often and why the medicine is taken.
  • Use medication-measuring devices. Household spoons vary in volume and should not be used.
  • Monitor the medicine use of family members, especially controlled substances and medicines used for pain, cough and cold and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Increase safety in your home with three simple steps:4

  1. Post the Poison Control Center number near telephones and program the number into cell phones.
  2. Inspect your home. Visit (link opens in new window) for home safety checklists.
  3. Dispose of unused medicines properly.

If you have a poison emergency, call 911.

Poison Control Center
(TTY: 711)


1 Hedegaard H, Chen LH, Warner M. (2015). NCHA Data Brief No.190: Drug-poisoning Deaths Involving Heroin: United States, 2000-2013. (link opens in new window).

2 Mowry JB, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR, Bailey JE, Ford M. 2012 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 30th Annual Report, Clinical Toxicology, (2013) 51: 949-1229.

3 Mowry JB, Spyker DA, Brooks DE, McMillan N, Schauben JL. 2014 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 32nd Annual Report, Clinical Toxicology, (2015) 53:10, 962-1147.

4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (link opens in new window)